Lockets 18.01.2013

Belle D’Amour Hairwork Pendant

Belle d'Armour Pendant French Hairwork 19th Century

The remarkable quality of French jewels is their ability to reflect a great variety of cultural influence and present an aesthetically beautiful object that upholds the love and emotional value of the individual who commissioned it and still houses those qualities today.

During a generation of uncertainty, the French produced some of the finest, progressive jewels of their time, however, this was born from several reasons. From 1789, the French Revolution defined the culture that produced these jewels, a time that changed the perspectives not only in monarchy and politics, but also in the self and ideology.

And yet, despite this turmoil, pieces like this were produced and flourished. Even in times when other cultures were giving their precious metals to be melted down and donated to protecting their country against an external war machine (such as ‘Berlin Iron’ pieces), the French still resonated their affectation of personal love. Much of this could be attributed to the change in social perspectives, following on from the French Revolution. ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ as a motto (though not adopted until the late 19th century), had developed in the 18th century, and a truer reflection upon the mentality of jewellery creation could not be any more ideal. Liberty, equality, and previously ‘friendship’ reflect the opinions of a society that place their value in the gift of a love token.

From this piece, we can see that influence create a jewel that isn’t simply an arbitrary jewel given as a sign of love, but the hairwork is its individual personality. ‘Belle d’Amour’ is written above the hair itself, and joining into the rose/picture frame motif with the two love birds sitting underneath.

As a motif, the picture frame is a nice metatextural reference to the idea of the painted miniature portrait or depiction being displayed within a frame, as one would be within the confines of this pendant’s shape. Instead, it tells a beautiful allegory in its symbols and has a direct message for the wearer.

Further Reading:
In Memory of My Dear and Amiable Friend Urn/Hairwork Pendant
“Le Plus Loin Le Plus Serre” – “The further the distance the tighter the knot” Sepia Miniature
Circular Neoclassical Mourning Miniature
Revisiting a Pearl and Blue Glass/Enamel Brooch: How Trade Opened Up New Possibilities in the 18th Century